In the day of video games and internet chat rooms, one local organization strives to pass on the enjoyment of reading and writing to children around Houston. With American students reading and writing skills declining in all age groups, Writers in the Schools “focuses on this problem, one child at a time.” Though at-risk inner-city students are its focus, WITS also has workshops in art museums, hospitals, community centers, private schools and juvenile detention centers.
Since 1983, WITS has sought to bring the joy and sense of accomplishment from writing to Houston-area students with in-school programs. The WITS professional writers work in more than 350 classrooms to help students develop the skills to become effective writers. Students in this program are taught the writing process and key objectives of language arts so that they are able to write successfully. This long-term program allows students to develop a relationship with professional writers who provide the instruction and time to practice new techniques.
This program recognizes that art and writing go hand in hand, so students are taken for a field trip to The Menil Collection, or another art venue, for inspiration. The student’s writing is even published in an anthology and celebrated at public events, adding to the sense of accomplishment for the students. This program offers the students an encouraging atmosphere in which to develop their written voice and improve their skills.
After the bell rings
WITS believes that “everyone has a personal story to tell” and provides the skills needed for students to be able to tell their stories. This program not only offers a safe environment after school, but also nurtures the growth of their imaginations. Often the participating students’ academic performance improves, as well as their self-confidence, due to the skills they learn and the supportive environment. These after-school workshops aim to make writing enjoyable and relevant to all students through active learning and interdisciplinary techniques.
Writers in the Schools doesn’t only help students, it also aid teachers. To help teachers encourage writing and the joys of the writing process, WITS provides in-services to share innovative teaching ideas and strategies. Teachers and writers work together to transform the way writing is taught so that they reach more students and make writing more enjoyable for their students. The in-services are valuable tools that provide teachers with inspiration for classroom activities.
Summer of creativity
To encourage reading and writing for fun during the summer months, WITS offers Summer Creative Writing Workshops. Here, children write stories, poetry, essays and plays, as well as engage in reading for pleasure. Children are able to discover the joys of writing, the diversity of language and the self-confidence that comes with authorship in a supportive environment. With a low student-teacher ratio, each child gets the individual attention he/she need.
Helping around Houston
In an effort to reach troubled children, six of WITS writers work with the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department to give these children a new outlet to the world. The goal of this program is to replace the cycles of misbehavior and punishment with a world of words and imagination.
For the children and their siblings being treated at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, WITS’ twice-weekly program helps children “draw windows out of a hospital room” through their writing. This is one of the most rewarding projects in which the writers of WITS participate. One writer from WITS works year-round with the patients at Texas Children’s Hospital to give them one-on-one writing instruction. A quarterly newsletter with the children’s writing, “The Splendid Review,” is distributed to patients and siblings from the hospital as part of the Arts in Medicine Program.
In collaboration with the Community Family Center, one writer works with neighborhood elementary school children in an after-school writing workshop. This helps them to “develop a sense of self as part of a real community and to deal with challenges” facing their communities.
Through these and other programs, Writers in the Schools aims to bring the enjoyment of writing to children around Houston. The participating children are given a creative outlet that benefits them in many aspects of their lives. H